Jon Long and Matt Frey of the Hilliard Darby High School baseball team pitched their share of big innings a year ago when the Panthers won a Division I district championship.

Jon Long and Matt Frey of the Hilliard Darby High School baseball team pitched their share of big innings a year ago when the Panthers won a Division I district championship.

In fact, coach Chris Fugitt had counted on their maturity as his team played through a OCC-Ohio Division which produced three Division I district champions.

As seniors, the duo had Darby in contention for another league title at 10-6 overall and 6-2 in the OCC-Central Division after a 6-4 loss last Monday at Upper Arlington.

"Coming in we knew we had to work pretty hard because we rely a lot on our pitching in the program," said Long, who dropped to 3-2 with the loss to the Golden Bears. "It was really important for us to be successful. I think the experience last year helped a lot and that's really taken the pressure off."

Long had a better start in a 3-0 victory over Worthington Kilbourne on April 22 when he allowed just four hits. A day later, Frey improved to 4-0 with a 5-2 win over Hilliard Davidson, his fourth complete game.

Before last Monday, Long had a 0.75 ERA in 28 innings with 26 strikeouts and seven walks, and Frey in 26 innings had a 0.54 ERA with 22 strikeouts and four walks.

The numbers are nothing new for Fugitt, who has grown accustomed to having one or two dominant throwers in each of the last three seasons.

Now at Miami University, Lance Kingrey had an ERA of less than 1.00 before a 9-8 loss to Gahanna in a regional semifinal. In 2007, Tad Sparks led the Panthers to their first district championship.

"We've been pretty fortunate," said Fugitt, a Hilliard graduate who pitched at Bowling Green. "We've had some good arms and, hopefully, we can continue that. We've had some guys who can get the job done. It also helps when you play solid defense. I always tell them we can't defend a walk."

Darby isn't short on arms. When preseason workouts started in February, 13 of the 18 on the varsity roster showed up for pitching workouts and continue to throw bullpens.

Fugitt has watched senior Adam Zimmerman develop into a solid No. 3 starter at 2-0 with a 2.85 ERA in four starts.

"Coach Fugitt was a pitcher so he really knows the little things," Frey said. "When I get ahead in the count, it's gotten so I know what pitch he's going to call. Our coaches do a great job of scouting, so we're always prepared for the hitters we face."

Darby pitchers are even more relaxed in knowing that the team through 15 games was averaging nearly eight runs, although four of the six losses have been one-run games.

Justin Chumita (.476), Alec Orr (.413, 9 doubles, 15 RBI) and Mitch Baer (.400, 4 doubles, 1 triple 18 RBI) have led at the plate.

"We're not completely set with our lineup and we've been trying some different things," Fugitt said. "A lot of it depends on who's pitching and who's swinging the hot bat. We've had times when the bottom of our order has come up with some big hits."

At a glance

Below are the recent results and coming schedule for the Darby baseball team:

*April 22 -- Defeated Worthington Kilbourne 3-0. Jon Long pitched a complete game.

*April 23 -- Def. Hilliard Davidson 5-2. Matt Frey improved to 4-0 as Darby scored four runs in the seventh.

*Last Friday -- Def. Central Crossing 9-0. Adam Zimmerman earned the shutout.

*Last Monday -- Lost to Upper Arlington 6-4

*Last Wednesday -- Played Dublin Coffman

*Today -- At Thomas Worthington

*Friday -- Home vs. Thomas

Saturday -- Home vs. Watterson

*Monday -- At Westland. Darby won 10-0 on April 17.

*Wednesday -- Home vs. Davidson

Of note: The Panthers were 10-5 overall and 6-2 in the OCC-Central before last Wednesday.

*OCC-Central game